What impact do you expect the dramaturgy program to have on you as a playwright and on The Orchard?
It’s so hard to say. Each pairing of people so unique, and results in so many outcomes . . . ! I’m not going into the program with any expectations. Only a desire to grow as a playwright, and I hope in turn my play will grow too. My dramaturge is Guillermo Verdecchia, whose work I’ve respected for a long time. He recently adapted Lorca’s Blood Wedding. So working with him on my adaptation of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard is a perfect match. And we have our time spread out over a year, which is an amazing luxury. I can’t wait to get started.
What, if any, has been your past experience of working with a dramaturge?
My past experiences, which are limited, have really varied. With one of my first dramaturges, I realized halfway through the process that we were trying to write two very different plays. It caused a lot of tension and eventually the play stopped moving forward. That was a huge learning experience for me as an emerging playwright, in terms of communication. On the other side of the coin, I most recently worked with Marjorie Chan who was a wonderful dramaturge! She was sounding board, advocate and we found a process that worked for both of us.
Between the time that you began work on The Orchard and now, what has/have been the most significant turning point(s) in the writing?
I think the most significant changes to the play will happen in this coming year, and that is something I am really excited about. I feel like a have a solid, straight forward adaptation right now. Through various drafts, I’ve really gotten to know Chekhov’s characters in their new context of the 1970s Okanagan. Now it’s time to let the play burst open and get away from the Chekhov. Actually, I’m very scared about it . . . but that’s what makes it exhilarating.
You said that you’ve drawn from personal experiences for this piece, including interviewing family members, can you talk about the process of integrating and fictionalizing these experiences for your play?
Yes, I did a lot of interviews with my family who grew up on our orchard, and were also the ones to cut it down in 2009. And I continue to find historical accounts of farming in the Okanagan through the Kelowna Archives. After completing research, I let it percolate and work on me, and then I never really look at it. Organically, whatever captured my imagination, finds its way into the play. A beat, a moment, or a point of view. No character is based on a specific family member. Each character is a composite of Chekhov, my research, and my dreamed reality.
What is your earliest/best/worst memory of theatre as an audience member?
I grew up in Kelowna, which is a relatively small town with no professional theatre. So my first memory of theatre was a play that I was in. In Grade 6, my teacher wrote and directed our christmas play. It was called Christmas on the Enterprise. Yes, as in the Star Trek Enterprise. I was too nervous to audition for any of the parts, so I was The Computer. I sat behind a box and made a robot voice. I wanted to throw up, I was so nervous. But, man oh man, I sounded like a computer!